German artist Franz Hecker was a curious artist of an experimental soul, who turned his hand and mind to many different mediums and styles. The most resounding of all these experimentations is his landscape works in the impressionist style.
Hecker’s artistic education began at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts, a school of international renown and artistic excellence. Here, he would study alongside the likes of Fritz Overbeck (1869-1909) and Otto Modersohn (1865-1943), two artists very much enamoured with the impressionist spirit, looking towards nature as a guiding, emotive spirit. It seems Hecker would become similarly entranced, as we will see.
After his studies in Düsseldorf, Hecker travelled to Paris to receive instruction from famed artist William Adolphe Bouguereau (1825-1905) at the Académie Julian. This was an incredibly popular route for many young artists to take at this time. Bouguereau was an eminent teacher, even whilst his own artistic practices ran the complete opposite way to impressionism, with a focus on academic classicism.
Following Paris, Hecker would journey across Europe before eventually settling back in his homeland, in the city of Osnabrück. It was from here that his great artistic output began. The city would provide an ample fountain of artistic inspiration for Hecker throughout the years. It features often in engravings executed by the artist. With a delicate hand, Hecker rendered the rooftops and plastered walls of the many houses and buildings. They stretch out in a ramshackle pattern in the background of an image of a watchtower guard atop his post. He is seated with solemnity and solitary peacefulness, head turned towards his book. The city beyond is well-established, the rooves stretching confidently. They do not need guarding; this man might have a moment to himself.
It is Hecker’s landscapes, with their impressionistic verve, which are his greatest legacy. He has a quickness of brush and yet a discernment of eye which brings a fine finish to scenes of the German countryside. Brushstrokes are bold yet not placed with any random sporadicity. Their wildness is considered, tempered, capturing the immediate energy of the scene around the artist and translating it onto his canvas. This is done with the ebullient use of colours. Autumn is in fine, umber thrall and a river is a shimmering array of aquamarine tones through Hecker’s hand.
At times, his works edge towards the more experimental. There is something post-impressionist about the image of a chestnut tree and the lonely bench beneath it. The shadowed bushels of its great boughs are bold and blocky, whilst the pin pricking of individual blades of grass has an almost geometric feel. This work has often been compared to ‘The Park’ by Gustav Klimt (1862-1918).
Whilst Hecker experimented with a number of styles and mediums across his life, the dependable constant in his work was his own artistic personality. There is this glorious energy to his works and a unique expression of artistic emotion in the choosing of images and the colours and mediums with which he treats them. Hecker’s natural talent is obvious.
Unfortunately, Hecker was killed during an allied bombing raid on Osnabrück during the Second World War. However, the over 1,000 works he has left behind are a worthy legacy for such an experimental and curious artist.
Born in Bersenbrück, Germany.
Studied at the Düsseldorf Academy of Fine Arts.
Studied at the Académie Julian.
Travelled to Italy.
Died in Schölerberg, Osnabrück, Germany.